An American In Paris (1951)

an american in paris
Gene Kelly and Lesley Caron

'An American in Paris' is an MGM musical film made in 1951, directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, and Oscar Levant.

It features music from the Gershwin brothers, including George Gershwin's magnificent orchestral composition of 1926, and lyrics from some of brother Ira's works of the 1920's and 1930's. It was a critical, financial and artistic tour de force and one of the most successful and celebrated of the 50 musicals which MGM produced.

The Gershwin musical pedigree combined with the choreography and dancing of Gene Kelly at his athletic and artistic peak, together with the 19 year old Lesley Caron making her movie debut, make this a movie to savour.

The high point is the imaginative, avant-garde ballet, a 16 minute "dance daydream" in the style of various Impressionist painters, featuring Kelly and Caron, and set to Gershwin's "An American in Paris". The ballet alone cost more than half a million dollars, a colossal sum for the austere post-war 1950's.

The movie was an original for the screen, conceived by MGM producer Alan Freed as a vehicle for Kelly and constructed around a group of George Gershwin's most popular songs ("I Got Rhythm", "I'll Build A Stairway to Paradise", "'S Wonderful"). Out of eight Academy nominations it won six Awards including Best Picture (over supposed favorites 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'A Place in the Sun') as well as a special citation for choreographer/star Gene Kelly and the Thalberg Memorial award for Alan Freed. It is one of very few musicals to win the Best Picture Award.

'An American in Paris' was voted number sixty-eight on AFI's list of the 100 greatest American movies of all time and in 1993, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.


The uncomplicated plotline revolves around a simple, old-fashioned love story, set in Montmartre and sends up the penchant of young Americans to dabble in French culture. Penniless ex GI artist Jerry Mulligan, played by Gene Kelly, tap dances with urchins and falls for gamine muse Lise, played by Leslie Caron, and vies for her with a close friend of his called Henri Bourel, a popular nightclub performer played by suave French singer Georges Guetary, who had saved her during the war from the Nazis.

Meanwhile rich art patron Milo Robert, played by Nina Foch, seethes with jealousy, all dryly observed by the composer pal played by pianist and Gershwin exponent Oscar Levant. Henri very conveniently fades from the action when he discovers that Lise has fallen in love with Jerry and there is a happy ending.

The story is held together by the wonderful music, stupendous production numbers and Minnelli fills the film with vitality, Parisian joie-de-vivre, and a riot of Technicolor. The sensational, innovative highlight is Kelly's original dream sequence ballet to the title music, staged through sets in the style of artists, Dufy, Utrillo, Toulouse-Lautrec, and others, and the blissfully romantic Kelly-Caron "Our Love is Here To Stay" dance number on the banks of the river Seine.

'An American in Paris' is one of the greatest of all musicals, an unmissable movie masterpiece.


George Gershwin's musical suite "An American in Paris" was premiered on December 13, 1928 in New York. MGM acquired the film rights to the suite on June 1, 1949 for $158,750, and also contracted with Gershwin's brother and lyricist Ira, for rights to use their songs. The first script for the film was submitted by Alan Jay Lerner on in June, 1950 and apart from some minor revisions this was the script used for the completed film.

Jerry's paintings were created by American artist Gene Grant.


It has been suggested that Fred Astaire was considered for the role of Jerry Mulligan but the younger Gene Kelly was the only serious possibility.

Maurice Chevalier was considered for the role of Henri Baurel but Chevalier's reputation was tainted by suspicions of collaboration during WWII.

Minnelli and Gene Kelly wanted a fresh face for the role of Lise, and Kelly had seen the talented Leslie Caron, in the company of French ballet impresario Roland Petit, when she was just seventeen. Caron was signed for the picture in 1950.

Celeste Holm was considered for the role of Milo but Minnelli liked the reading given by Nina Foch and gave her the role.

Shooting began on August 1, 1950 and finished on January 8, 1951. Some filming was done on location in Paris, mainly for atmosphere and background, but most of the film was shot at MGM's Culver City studios on 44 sets specially built for the film.

Main Cast

Gene Kelly ... Jerry Mulligan
Leslie Caron ... Lise Bouvier
Oscar Levant ... Adam Cook
Georges Guétary ... Henri "Hank" Baurel
Nina Foch ... Milo Roberts
Eugene Borden ... George Mattieu
Martha Bamattre ... Mathilde Mattieu
Mary Young ... Old Woman Dancer
Madge Blake ... Edna Mae Bestram (customer)
Nan Boardman ... Maid
Andre Charisse ... Dancing Partner


Director ... Vincente Minnelli
Producer ... Arthur Freed
Written by ... Alan Jay Lerner
Music ... George Gershwin (music), Ira Gershwin (lyrics), Saul Chaplin (uncredited) Cinematography ... Alfred Gilks, John Alton (ballet)
Distribution Company ... Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date ... October 4, 1951
Running time ... 113 minutes

Academy Awards

Six Wins:
Best Picture ... Arthur Freed
Best Story and Screenplay ... Alan Jay Lerner
Cinematography (Color) ... Alfred Gilks, John Alton
Costume Design (Color) ... Orry-Kelly, Walter Plunkett, Irene Sharaff
Art Direction/Set Decoration (Color) ... Cedric Gibbons, Preston Ames - Art Direction, Edwin B. Willis, Keogh Gleason - Set Decoration
Scoring of a Musical Picture ... Johnny Green, Saul Chaplin
In addition Gene Kelly received an Academy Honorary Award that year for "his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film."
Two Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Director ... Vincente Minnelli
Film Editing ... Adrienne Fazan